Three Psychic Zones as Propounded by Sigmund Freud

SIGMUND FREUD MAY JUSTLY BE called the most influential intellectual legislator of his age. It was he who revolutionized conventional thought and discovered the new method of treatment, which is called the psychoanalysis. Originally he was the medical man and engaged his mind in the study of treatment of nervous patients in his own clinic. He found in his treatment that many of the abnormal behaviour and mental disease of his patients originates from the nervous abnormalities. Thus gradually he devoted himself in the study of psychology particularly the psychology of the unconscious human mind.

Sigmund Freud was the man who can be ranked with Darwin and Einstein whose work has radically changed the Western concept about the human animal, his environment and die relationship between the two. He is the man who first interpreted dreams and recognized the same as the messages from the unconscious regions of die mind, who first accepted die facts of infantile sexuality, who first made the distinction between the primary and the secondary processes of thinking—the man who first made unconscious mind real to us.

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is one of the significant theory in the field of study of human behaviour. It assumes that human behaviour is determined by powerful inner forces. Most of these forces are buried deep within the unconscious mind and there is dynamic interaction which determines behaviour. Freud believed that the mind is responsible for both conscious and unconscious decisions that it makes on the basis of psychological drives. The id, ego, and super-ego are three aspects of the mind Freud believed to comprise a person’s personality. These elements work together to creat complex human behaviors. Freud believed people are “simply actors in the drama of [their] own minds, pushed by desire, pulled by coincidence. Underneath the surface, our personalities represent the power struggle going on deep within us”.

According to Freud’s theory, certain aspects of your personality are more primal and might pressure you to act upon your most basic urges. Other parts of your personality work to counteract these urges and strive to make you conform to the demands of reality. 

The Id

  • According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality.
  • The id is the only component of personality that is present from birth.
  • This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes instinctive and primitive behaviors.

Has an urge, impulse, or desire so strong that it just had to be satisfied ever overpowered you? A new car, sexual desire, a dream job? The answer is probably a resounding “Yes!” Where does such desire come from? According to Freud, desire comes from the part of your personality called the id, located in the expanses of our mind. So look around, and look deep within. Look at your co-workers, look at your boss. It’s in all of us, even the quiet old lady at the bus stop. Underneath that quiet, grandmotherly demeanor lurks a seething cauldron of desire.

The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension. For example, an increase in hunger or thirst should produce an immediate attempt to eat or drink.

However, immediately fulfilling these needs is not always realistic or even possible. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing the things that we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings.

This behavior would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable. According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the use of primary process thinking, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.

Although people eventually learn to control the id, this part of personality remains the same infantile, primal force throughout life. It is the development of the ego and the superego that allows people to control the id’s basic instincts and act in ways that are both realistic and socially acceptable.

The Ego

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get everything you wanted, whenever and however you wanted it? Unfortunately, most of us know otherwise. We all know how frustrating it can be when a desire goes unmet or gets stifled. Well, you can blame your ego for that. The ego is Freud’s second mental apparatus of personality. The ego’s main function is to mediate between the id’s demands and the external world around us — reality in other words.

The Ego is an outgrowth of id and it acts on the reality principle. The ego finds a safe and effective way to satisfy the needs of the id. This part of the psyche develops functions such as memory, judgment, planning, language, perception to do this. In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification—the ego will eventually allow the behavior, but only in the appropriate time and place.

Freud compared the id to a horse and the ego to the horse’s rider. The horse provides the power and motion, while the rider provides direction and guidance. Without its rider, the horse may simply wander wherever it wished and do whatever it pleased. The rider gives the horse directions and commands to get it to go where the rider wants it to go.

Imagine that you are stuck in a long meeting at work. You find yourself growing increasingly hungry as the meeting drags on. While the id might compel you to jump up from your seat and rush to the break room for a snack, the ego guides you to sit quietly and wait for the meeting to end.

Instead of acting upon the primal urges of the id, you spend the rest of the meeting imagining yourself eating a cheeseburger. Once the meeting is finally over, you can seek out the object you were imagining and satisfy the demands of the id in a realistic and appropriate manner.

The Superego

The superego develops because of the moral standards of the external world, which constantly tell what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, the superego state tries to make a balance between the needs of the id, the demands of the superego and the reality of the situation.

According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five. Usually, our conscience comes from our parents or a parental figure. As we grow, we internalize their standards, those same standards that make us feel so guilty when we tell a lie. But does everyone have a conscience? There are certain people throughout history who have committed such horrible acts of violence that we sometimes wonder if they are void of conscience. How can serial killers commit such horrible crimes? A strong bet is that they lack the basic capacity to feel guilt, so nothing really prevents them from acting out their violent fantasies. A famous psychiatrist once said that evil men do what good men only dream of.

Freud believed that most of the problems that adults face today has its root or basis in childhood. From early childhood, people repress desires or needs (originating from the id) that are unacceptable to them or to society. These repressed feelings cause personality disturbances, self destructive behaviour or even physical symptoms.

The superego has two parts:

  1. The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society. These behaviors are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishments, or feelings of guilt and remorse.
  2. The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for behaviors that the ego aspires to

The superego tries to perfect and civilize our behavior. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.



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